Farhad Moshiri has been called a fraud, Robert Elstone has been told to get out of the club, and the shouts of “Let go if you love the club” have rung out again around social media. But let’s have some perspective.
Everton have finished 11th in the last two Premier League seasons. Yes, we have a new billionaire majority shareholder. Yes, we sold John Stones. And yes, we have a boss new manager. But we don’t have European football. This season.
Players in their prime at the highest level want to be playing in the Champions League. Or at least the Europa League with the potential of climbing into the Champions League places this season.
That’s why Leicester City were able to sign Islam Slimani. That’s why Arsenal landed Lucas Perez. And let’s face it, that’s why Moussa Sissoko switched his phone off and jumped through the gap in the corner of White Hart Lane last night.
Everton need to look towards “inbetweener” players. Or to give them a less Channel Four name, “stepping stone” players. Players who are either good enough to get us to the Europa League slots to then be replaced, or players who have the potential to play in the Champions League and want to use Everton as either a stepping stone to that level, or help propel us there.
At his stage in his career – at 32 – Ashley Williams has the ability to play for a Champions League side, but unless he helps Everton there this season, will need replacing before he gets the chance to do so. He will, however, help get us into a position where defenders with an eye on the Champions League will think more seriously about joining Everton.
Maarten Stekelenberg, for all his excellent performances so far this season, is unlikely to feature on the most-wanted list of most Champions League clubs. But he’ll help Everton reach a point where the Blues are a more attractive proposition to “Champions League” goalkeepers.
Yannick Bolasie and Idrissa Gueye? Well, they’re the type of player we should be aiming to get in most of all. Approaching the peak of their careers, and having never had chance to realise the dream of playing in the Champions League for an English club, they will relish the chance to be instrumental in Ronald Koeman’s resurrection of Everton Football Club. Is it likely that either would jump ship should Everton fail to land a top four slot when offered a move to a Champions League side? Of course it is. Both are also likely to attract that type of interest should they perform to the level we hope they do. They would – if it happened – have used Everton as a stepping stone.
The should, of course, stay the course and help Koeman achieve is goal of taking Everton into the upper reaches of the Premier League. But let’s not kid ourselves here.
Romelu Lukaku could be subject of bids from all manner of clubs in the next window, and definitely next summer. But he’s said he’ll stay for another season at least. He wants to play in the Champions League, he’s made no secret of that, and nor has his dad. But he’s opted to stay with Everton – and Ronald Koeman – in order to try and make that happen at Goodison Park. He is the epitome of a “stepping stone” player. He flopped at Chelsea, but thrived at Everton, and has continually said he wants to prove himself on the biggest stage (despite failing for his country).
11th place finishes don’t attract big star players, no matter how much money might be thrown at them. It may attract the likes of Samuel Eto’o but then a couple of goals at Burnley hardly helped us did it?
Everton need to attract players looking for a stepping stone, who then make the club a destination in itself and stay to achieve their goals. Ronald Koeman has already started that process.